Senegal chose Liverpool star Sadio Mane on Wednesday for World Cup qualifiers against South Africa next month just eight days after his club said he could be sidelined for six weeks. The striker was among 25 players named by coach Aliou Cisse for crucial back-to-back fixtures with South Africa. “Mane has resumed individual training and will probably resume full training next week,” Cisse said. A Liverpool statement last Tuesday said Mane “picked up an injury that could keep him out of action for up to six weeks”.
Mane had to be substituted after suffering a hamstring injury during a 2-0 World Cup victory in Cape Verde this month. Senegal need two points from matches in Polokwane on November 10 and Dakar on November 14 to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
South Africa will qualify if they win both games. The Senegalese are seeking a second World Cup appearance after losing to Turkey in the 2002 quarter-finals. South Africa qualified for the 1998 and 2002 tournaments and were automatic participants in 2010 as the first African nation to host the World Cup.
No Premier League
games on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve will be free of Premier League football after broadcasters agreed not to schedule any games for that day. Arsenal’s home clash with Liverpool had been earmarked for a potential switch from its original Saturday (Dec. 23) slot to the Sunday, prompting criticism from Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp and fans’ groups.
The match will now take place on Dec. 22 with the other nine games kicking off on Dec. 23, starting with Everton vs Chelsea at 1230 GMT and finishing with Leicester City vs Manchester United at 1945 GMT.
Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore said the timing of the Christmas holiday this year had made scheduling complicated. The Premier League is the only top European league with games over the Christmas period and it is a tradition deeply ingrained in British football. Until 1958 matches were played on Christmas Day itself. Scudamore defended both Sky Sports and BT Sport from criticism. The two broadcasters share the Premier League domestic rights package having paid a combined 5.14bn pounds ($6.8bn) over three years.
New Zealand defender
Durante out of playoff
New Zealand’s hopes of reaching the World Cup finals in Russia next year have suffered a setback after defender Andrew Durante was ruled out of the two-leg playoff against Peru in November due to injury. The 35-year-old suffered a groin adductor injury in Wellington Phoenix’s 3-2 loss to Sydney FC in the A-League last Sunday.
Scans yesterday confirmed the extent of the injury, local media reported, which would keep him out of action for up to 12 weeks. The Oceania champions face Peru, who finished fifth in South American qualifying, in the first leg of the intercontinental playoff in Wellington on Nov. 11 before heading to Lima for the second leg on Nov. 15.
Durante played alongside captain Winston Reid and Michael Boxall in defence in the All Whites’ last match, a 2-1 loss to Japan in treacherous conditions in Nagoya earlier this month. Tommy Smith is expected to slot straight back into the squad in place of Durante as he continues his comeback from a hamstring injury.
New Zealand have qualified for the finals just twice before, in 1982 and 2010. They were hammered 9-3 on aggregate by Mexico in a playoff for a place at the 2014 finals in Brazil. New Zealand Football said yesterday they had pre-sold more than 30,000 tickets for the home leg at Wellington Regional Stadium, with more than 20,000 snapped up in the first hour of sales on Tuesday.
pressure after Shanghai loss
Chinese media piled pressure on Shanghai SIPG coach Andre Villas-Boas yesterday after their stinging defeat to Urawa Red Diamonds in the AFC Champions League semi-finals. The Portuguese coach promised silverware in his debut season but after Urawa’s 2-1 aggregate win, his best remaining hope seems to be next month’s CFA Cup final against city rivals Shanghai Shenhua.
SIPG spent big this year, hiring Brazilian midfielder Oscar for an Asian-record 60mn euros, but they look unlikely to overhaul holders Guangzhou Evergrande at the top of the Chinese Super League.
Urawa’s 1-0 second-leg win in Saitama late on Wednesday deepened the problems of the ex-Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea boss, who has been in the crosshairs of both the Chinese Football Association and the Asian Football Confederation.
The AFC fined him $14,000 for “offensive” comments following SIPG’s victory over Evergrande in the Champions League quarter-finals, and he received an eight-match touchline ban from the CFA after complaining about a referee.
Villas-Boas said he was bitterly disappointed to miss out on becoming the second Chinese team to win the AFC Champions League, following Evergrande in 2013 and 2015.
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